Native American Flowers Posted by gary on May 23, 2019 in Culture, nature
Honestly, late May into June is my favorite time of the year here in New England. The birds are back, I get to pull out my lighter weight clothing, and everywhere I look it’s green spattered with the colors of plants and flowers which have been dormant for months. It’s a time of renewal and hope.
I love to go to garden centers and select some new plants and herbs for the season. Usually, I’m interested in new varieties. Gardeners breed new plants every year, and it’s fun to see a familiar variety with a unique color or uncommon characteristic. But, did you know that there are some flowers which are native to the United States and were never seen anywhere else until settlers and explorers encountered them? For all the excitement I get discovering new breeds at my local shops, imagine finding a wild growing flower for the first time!
It’s important to remember that the US has an astonishing climate range. While considered largely temperate, you’ll find tropical conditions in Florida and Hawaii, arctic temperatures in Alaska, desert conditions in parts of the west, and alpine areas on both coasts. From the hottest, driest deserts imaginable, to tropical rainforests, to the strongest winds ever recorded, gardeners in the US face the greatest extremes of any country on Earth.
The US Department of Agriculture has established 11 different zones for planting. This is the standard by which gardeners can determine which plants will thrive in their areas. The zones are based on the average annual minimum winter temperature. Each growing zone varies by 10 degrees Fahrenheit from its adjacent zone, giving a range from -50 degrees in far northern Alaska to +70 degrees in Puerto Rico. California, for example, has 5 different growing zones. Even my small state of New Hampshire has 4 zones because of our widely varied terrain from Atlantic coastal conditions to our mountainous peaks. Due to climate change, zones need to be periodically adjusted.
It is no wonder, then, that the indigenous flowers of the United States are so different from each other. Here are a few…
1. Flowering Dogwood – This flowering tree can be found throughout the US east of the Mississippi River. It blooms white in the spring to deep pink in the fall.
2. Mountain Laurel – Native to the eastern coast of the US, this springtime flowering shrub can be found from Maine to Florida.
3. Tennessee Coneflower – Now considered rare and endangered, the Tennessee purple coneflower is found only in the limestone and cedar glades of Middle Tennessee.
4. Desert Sunflower – This wildflower is found in the southwestern deserts of California, Arizona, and Utah.
5. Southern Magnolia – Native to the southeastern US, this flowering tree is found from North Carolina to Florida, to east Texas.
Native wildflowers in the United States are so spectacular, and they can appear seemingly out of nowhere. You can take a walk, as I recently did, and see a mountain laurel all by itself next to a small stream, with not another shrub like it in sight.
Isn’t nature amazing?
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